Before puberty, four to five percent of children are affected by migraines 1, and around one in ten adolescents have migraines during puberty. 2 While migraines in childhood make no distinction in terms of gender, this changes during puberty: girls then suffer from recurrent headaches more often than boys. Some adolescents have migraines after puberty, others have them also as adults. What do parents need to know?
Migraines in children: the symptoms
Migraine headaches in children, like adults, are often pulsating or dull. But while the migraine headaches in adults are mostly one-sided, they are in children usually on both sides. In addition, the attacks in child migraines are usually shorter than in adults, namely around two hours. However, headache attacks can also occur in children that last up to 48 hours. 3
As with adults, an aura may precede the main headache phase in children. These are neurological deficits, such as flickering in front of the eyes, narrowing of the visual field or temporary paralysis. Symptoms such as mood swings, difficulty concentrating and cravings can indicate an upcoming migraine episode.
Typical features of a migraine attack in children can be
- a very pale complexion,
- dark circles under the eyes,
- Nausea, vomiting, sensitivity to light and noise as well
- a noticeable need to retreat to a dark, quiet room and sleep for a few hours.
After this period of rest, the children usually feel comfortable again.
Migraines in children: the diagnosis
It is often difficult, especially for the youngest, to distinguish a child’s migraine from other types of headache. It’s best, to let the child describe his headache or a younger child to have a picture painted, on which it shows how it feels its headache. Such drawings are often better understand as the child’s oral information when talking to the doctor.
Both for diagnosis and for therapy planning is a child-friendly headache diary very helpful. Child-friendly means that the diary is adapted to the child’s age and understanding. For example, instead of the usual pain scale with numbers from 1 to 10, smileys can be used. The doctor must also take into account that it often takes several appointments for the child to build trust and to report on possible psychological factors (such as problems in the family or school) that can be important as triggers for the migraines.
Causes of a Migraine in Children
Stress in family and school, such as arguments, bullying or poor school performance, play a major role in the development of migraines in children; this also applies to the frequency of migraine attacks.
The causes of a migraine attack in children are the same as in adults. For example:
- certain foods, for example chocolate, ripe cheese, glutamate, caffeinated lemonade
- Travel, climatic changes
- irregular sleep rhythm and lack of sleep
- fancy meals
Since each patient has different triggers, it is important to identify the individual factors so that they can be avoided in the long term and migraine attacks prevented. In order to find out what triggers the migraine, it is therefore very useful to keep a migraine diary.
Therapy of migraines in children
If the migraine attacks in children are short-lived or go away on their own after withdrawal and sleep, no medication is usually necessary. If the use of medication is necessary, the dosage of painkillers such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen must be done very carefully. In principle, it is advisable to place the treatment in the hands of a doctor, the great Has experience in the area of migraine treatment. For children from the age of 12 who suffer from migraines, the doctor can also prescribe special migraine drugs, so-called triptans. If only restrictedly approved for children, the use of these medicinal products is entirely possible after appropriate information from parents and children.
Prevent migraines in children
If the migraine attacks occur very often, you should consider preventive treatment. In the first place are:
- Rules of conduct, such as regular daily routine, physical leisure activities and learning child-friendly relaxation procedures
- exhausting daily routines with ambitious goals after school (sports clubs, music lessons) to reduce – they can lead to stress and pressure in the child
- breaks and pleasant activities during the day, for example after school
Even if no connection between the use of electronic media and migraines has been established so far, it is helpful in children excessive (and exhausting for the brain) Dealing with it to avoid. It takes the child’s time for rest and other activities.
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